Consecrated to the Heart of the Redeemer under the patronage of the Theotokos and Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.

20 September 2012

The Pope in Lebanon and the Reflections of one "Youth"

In his recent journeys to Lebanon, Pope Benedict XVI addressed the young people of Lebanon.  Of course, when it comes to matters of faith and morals, what he says to the Lebanese applies just as well to youth around the globe.  You may read the full text or you may read the excerpt provided by Mr. Palmo of Whispers in the Loggia, which prompted me to make this post.

I have included some excerpts that caught my eye, along with some personal commentary.

You have a special place in my heart and in the whole Church, because the Church is always young! The Church trusts you. She counts on you! Be young in the Church! Be young with the Church! The Church needs your enthusiasm and your creativity! Youth is the time when we aspire to great ideals, when we study and train for our future work. All this is important and it takes time. Seek beauty and strive for goodness! Bear witness to the grandeur and the dignity of your body which “is for the Lord” (1 Cor 6:13b). Be thoughtful, upright and pure of heart! In the words of Blessed John Paul II, I say to you: “Do not be afraid! Open the doors of your minds and hearts to Christ!” An encounter with Jesus “gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction” (Deus Caritas Est, 1). In Christ you will find the strength and courage to advance along the paths of life, and to overcome difficulties and suffering. In him you will find the source of joy. Christ says to you: سَلامي أُعطيكُم – My peace I give to you! (Jn 14:27). This is the true revolution brought by Christ: that of love.
The Pope is 85 years old.  He has been a priest as long as my mother has been alive.  He remembers what it was like to have all his vigor (though his mental and spiritual vigor have not abated, not unlike his predecessor of blessed memory).  He is in a unique position to share personal and ecclesial admiration for young people.  They have so much ahead of them and so much currently in their hands, so we are rightly concerned for their welfare.  We are concerned for the Church and the society that depends on their creativity, patience, and labor.

If Pope Benedict could be called a "one-trick pony," his emphasis on the personal encounter with Christ would so qualify him.  This encounter gives meaning and motion to the theological endeavor, to liturgical participation, and to moral living.  Is there any better endeavor for young and old alike?

The Holy Father's use of the word "revolution" ought not be lost on us.  Since biblical times, this part of the world has been fraught with violence.  Futility be damned, the Pope has called East and West to mutual love.  "With a little child to guide them" (Isa 11:6), the citizens of the 21st century will aspire to peaceful unity.

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The frustrations of the present moment must not lead you to take refuge in parallel worlds like those, for example, of the various narcotics or the bleak world of pornography. As for social networks, they are interesting but they can quite easily lead to addiction and confusion between the real and the virtual. Look for relationships of genuine, uplifting friendship. Find ways to give meaning and depth to your lives; fight superficiality and mindless consumption! You face another temptation, too: that of money, the tyrannical idol which blinds to the point of stifling the person at the heart. The examples being held up all around you are not always the best. Many people have forgotten Christ’s warning that one cannot serve both God and mammon (cf. Lk 16:13). Seek out good teachers, spiritual masters, who will be able to guide you along the path to maturity, leaving behind all that is illusory, garish and deceptive.
When I decided to begin this blog and, more recently, to return to Facebook, I realized that a "parallel world" was not what I wanted to enter.  The Holy Father notes how strong are the temptations to "a-void-ance" through addictive practices and substances, including the use of technology; to which I would add the debilitating attitudes that effectively ignore the Providence of God in our lives.

The Pope knows well that young people have a difficult time processing and transcending "the frustrations of the present moment."  Oftentimes those frustrations are the flint that ignites the mound of wounds and sins.  Many of us just don't know how to deal with life as it is, or become consumed with lesser things to the neglect of charity and prayer.

I am grateful for the "good teachers" and "spiritual masters" who share real time with me on a regular basis.  They are channels of the Lord's wisdom and mercy that help me to live as the Lord desires.  I am also grateful for the opportunities that He has given me to be a teacher and guide for others.  

The greater part of the spiritual life is maturity, the gaining of the divine perspective in our relationships and our daily situations; inspiring people to better things by our example and words; asking for and accepting help.  In the academic and spiritual fishbowl of the seminary, that sort of maturity wasn't easy for me to embrace.  I make no judgment upon the seminary, the diocese, or anyone else involved in my formation process.  Like my parents, they did the best they could with the material they were given.  Slowly I am coming to recognize that they did all right; but thank God for God--and for His emissaries along the way.

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